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Question: How do I avoid being overwhelmed by computers and the internet?

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FROM : Anonymous (via Ask TCI on our homepage)

Q: How do you balance the infinity of the internet with the computer’s versatility as a creative tool? My mind’s overstimulated state doesn’t have the patience for working within a single window.

A: When looking at both of these spaces as wholes—the internet and the computer—they seem vast and endless. And, in a certain way, they are. Despite both things being incredibly flexible and malleable as tools, though, they both have contours and rules that define them. I find it important to remember this when working in these spaces, by breaking down each of them into smaller constituent parts. The internet has so many smaller subcultures within it, social circles buzzing with exchange, and the computer is a tool that contains many smaller tools within it.

In order to throttle these masses that are so much bigger than any individual person, and to keep from becoming overwhelmed, it is best to approach these spaces with intention. Rather than thinking about these spaces as simply areas to communicate in, think about how and why you want to communicate within them or what your desired end result is. That way you can establish a horizon line that you can move towards, a direction to follow, and a target to hit. From there, you can more clearly choose the tools that will be best to take you in your desired direction.

In short, rather than looking at the tools and thinking about what you can make, think about what you want to make, and choose the creative tools that seem best to take you there.

Mark Dorf

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I find commercial software kills my creativity. It’s designed to do something very professional, like a production tool. In the beginning, I felt like I couldn’t really go underneath and truly understand its interface.

When you’re learning to paint or sculpt, you learn to understand the material. It’s important to see how to make your own paint, or how to carve your stone, or do ceramics, to work with clay. It’s really, really physical. I wanted to have that sort of experience with technology, especially the computer. I think I’m most creative when looking at electronic signals and seeing what’s happening inside a computer. I’m sculpting with signals.

I’m trying to use the internet in the way that I feel it should be used. Instead of getting sucked into echo chambers, I think it’s important to try and distribute information freely, and also give people the ability to create their own content critically.

As I was studying art in my late teens, early 20s, I discovered the power of the internet and digital tools for translating image-making into something more, and it just exploded from there. When I was studying art practice, the computer became exciting as a new tool for sculptural practices. It became this interesting way to explore how to approach something that is known or legible and blow it out.

So much of the narrative around technology, at least in popular culture, is increasingly negative. People feel enslaved by their phones. I know people who install programs on their computers in order to block them from using it, to limit how much they look at the internet or go on Facebook.

So I’d been keeping this list and I wanted to find some way of exploiting it into work. I’d experimented with means over the years and I’d never really been able to find a way of using them that popped and worked for me. But when Christopher and I became friends, and of course, he was famous for the paintings he made using words, I thought maybe that would be a good thing for us to try collaborating on, and he can solve the problem for me. My impulse was to superimpose the words on each other, and that’s where we began, in Photoshop. We worked for a year, meeting every week, working at a computer in his studio finding ways of making visual images using the two words from this set of them that I had. It was only like 14 instances, 14 word pairs, but we came up with 50 or 60 images.

You could be the greatest technician in the world, a computer genius, but at the end of day these things are just tools. It’s just like learning how to use pastels or oil paints. You still need to be an artist controlling those tools.

I’ve been taking notes every day since October 28, 2013. From then until May 1, 2015, I typed notes only on my phone in the Notes app. Then my phone broke and I moved my notes to a file on my computer in TextEdit called notes.rtf that is always open on my screen. In the past year, I’ve used the file probably an average of two hours a day. I’ve let the file evolve, in terms of what I type in it. I’d like the file to keep changing in whatever way that will help me.

About the Author

Mark Dorf

Artist

Mark Dorf is a New York-based artist working between the lines of photography, digital media, and sculpture. His work aims to explore humans’ interactions with the digital domain, urban environments, and the natural landscape in order “to understand our curious habitation of the 21st century world.” Here, he talks about his progression as an artist, using the internet as a resource, and using sincerity as a filter for what you should (or shouldn’t) make.

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